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Friday, January 10, 2014

With every mistake, we must surely be learning

Still my guitar gently weeps....

I look at you all, see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps....

("While My Guitar Gently Weeps", G. Harrison, 1967)

You know how you get into routines.  Particularly with my recent  move, I have been cherishing certain routines to keep the rhythm of my life on course.  My morning two cups of tea.  Going to the gym.  Sitting down and popping on the computer to see the mundane or amusing posts from my friends on Facebook, read a couple of emails, blah, blah, blah........

The other day was quite different.  I had a message from my brother-in-law.  First of all, I never knew him well or his wife, who was my sister.  And, I have had no contact with him for, well, gee....almost forty years.  Thirty-five, maybe.  A long, long time.  He was contacting me to tell me my sister had passed away.  She was ten years older than I.  She had been a smoker.  She had multiple health issues including cancer.  I felt badly not only for her death, but I was sadder still for the poor excuse of a family we had.  Sporadic and awkward contact over the years and the whole sad story.  I always felt left out, forgotten and worthless as far as family matters were concerned and that is why I had to, in a sense, divorce myself from it many years ago.

You think that you move on and put things behind you.  Until you find out that all those emotions are still there, still waiting to rear their sad little heads, still causing tears to fall.

The other surprise was that my brother-in-law asked that I contact my niece - his daughter.  Perhaps the last time I saw her she was nine years old or so.  I thought about for a bit, weighing the pros and cons and finally said to myself, "oh, what the hell."  What is everyone so afraid of?

So I  did contact her and since then, the whole world has changed.  I have been inundated and overwhelmed (in a good way) by emails, Facebook messages, conversations and old photos that have jogged the memory and squeezed my heart to an extent I didn't think possible.

There was a mystery in our family that I and the next generation are calling the Great Wall of Silence.  I believe it is solved.  When I found my father after not having seen him in 29 years, he was married to another woman, who had been the wife of his right hand man in his business, which was running three "bar and grills" in Brooklyn.  Essentially, then, my  father had been cheating on my mother and betraying his good friend for many, many years. There was a picture of my father with his "new" wife that clearly had been taken in either the late '40s or early '50s.  I could tell by how young my father looked and the style of the suits and hair.  What this told me was that he had a thing with this woman possibly or probably even before I was born. 

When my parents finally separated, the Great Wall went up.  After that, no one really knew anything because any talk was taboo.  Questions were never answered.  Facts had to be gleaned from experiences and as a result, information got garbled.  Even my older sister was perpetuating nonsense such that my parents had never actually divorced.  I went to the lawyers office with my mother.  They were divorced.  I found it odd that I actually knew some facts that my older sisters did not since I always felt so entirely out of the loop.  Shame.  Secrecy.  Silence.  As if he was the first  man in history to ever cheat on his wife.  I understand my mother's devastation.  But rather than reaching out to her children, she retreated.  She shut herself up in her own cocoon.  And a family was shattered.

Tucked into all this was my other oldest sister (twins) who had some sort of mental illness and was likely misdiagnosed at the time.  This was yet another thing we were all supposed to keep quiet about and pretend didn't really happen.  It was shameful.  People will talk.  People will blame.  Shhhh.

I have a trio of beautiful nieces, all of them smart and lovely.  We are in the process of getting to know one another, trading old memories and sharing similar reactions. We all love dogs. We all appear to be rabid liberals.  We all suffered from the Wall.  I can't change the past, but the future will surely be different from this point on. 

I have one living sister.  I am told she would like to hear from me.......